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Techie becomes successful Author
By Suneetha

Rasana Atreya has a degree in Instrumentation engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and a Master's in Computer Hardware from Marquette University, Milwaukee. She worked in a variety of consulting jobs in the Silicon Valley (USA) - from the computer centre at UCSF to technical support at Silicon Graphics, before relocating back to India to a brand new career in writing.

This career took off quite like a rocket when she was nominated for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize in 2012 for the unpublished manuscript of her first book, Tell a Thousand Lies. Techgoss had met her at that occasion.  Rasana looked for a publisher and found one, but she worried on one aspect. They wanted the digital rights to the book as well, which she did not quite want to give up. So Rasana took a decision to explore the cyber publishing skies of Amazon Kindle and went on to publish not only to commercial success but also to acclaim and has gone on to become an authority on self-publishing on Kindle. In fact Amazon flew her to Delhi when they launched in India.

Rasana has so far published two novels and one novella, all on Kindle. ‘Tell a Thousand Lies’ and ‘28 Years a Bachelor’ are the novels and ‘The Temple Is Not My Father’ is the novella. Since the time of publication, Tell a Thousand Lies and The Temple Is Not My Father have hovered in the top 3 positions in Asian Fiction on Amazon US/UK.28 Years a Bachelor has joined them in the top 10. She has since been a panellist on self-publishing at various lit fests including the Jaipur Literary Festival.

Here is our conversation with Rasana Atreya.

Techgoss (TG):  When did you write your first piece and what was it? fiction/poetry?
Rasana Atreya (RA): I've been writing since I was five years old. Unfortunately, none of that survived. As a grownup, my first piece of writing was fiction, and a really bad one at that! :-) I submitted a 400-word story to an online writing group based on a prompt. My fellow writers ripped it apart, and with good reason. It was awful; it broke so many rules that it didn't deserve to be called fiction.

But I never let anything bog me down so I kept submitting pieces week after week. After a while I realized that the problem areas in my writing were getting smaller and smaller. Which was a good thing because, by then, I was hooked on fiction writing.

TG: What else have you written so far? Journalistic features? Translations? Anything else?
RA: I freelanced for the Times of India while in Pune. It was quite the experience dragging my maid and infant daughter along as I did the interviews. I've also written technical manuals, if that counts. 

TG: Your first book, it was a nominee on the Tibor Jones circuit, how was the experience? Could you detail how the experience of being a nominee helped you as a writer?
RA: After all the critiques I got for my weekly submissions on that online critique group, I was blown away that two eminent judges thought my novel worth nominating for a prize. This nomination was the best thing that could have happened to me because it gave me the confidence to go at it on my own.

TG: When and why did you decide to self publish the book as an Amazon e-book?
RA: I had always wanted to self-publish my book but wasn't quite sure people would want to read it. The Tibor Jones nomination gave me the courage to decline the traditional publishing contract and self-publish. It wasn't as easy as that, of course. I was a nervous wreck, constantly questioning myself because my friends were convinced I was a fool for having declined the traditional publishing contract. But I've learned that it can pay to take calculated risks.

TG: You have quite a reputation as a self-publishing guru now, could you tell us where all this reputation has taken you and the podiums it has given you?
RA: Self-publishing has been a truly fabulous journey. I'm very visible in the Indian self-publishing arena, so when Amazon started operations in India, they flew me to New Delhi for the launch (and also gifted me a Kindle Paperwhite), which was pretty cool!

Because of self-publishing, and the resultant networking, I have writer friends from around the globe. My beta-readers include writers from the UK, the US, Israel and, of course, India.

Other opportunities that have resulted - I've been a panelist at the Jaipur and Hyderabad Literary Festivals, I've done a kick-off session for NaNoWriMo at IIIT Hyderabad, I've conducted workshops on writing and publishing at various writing events.

I've also been featured or interviewed in pretty much every major English-language newspaper in India, and many magazines, the latest being India Today.

I'm also gearing up to be the Indian ambassador for the UK-based Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

TG: Could you share some sales statistics as an incentive?
RA: Being an Indie author gives you a tremendous amount of control. You can monitor trends and react quickly. In January 2015 I did a world-wise promotion for Tell a Thousand Lies, which resulted in 3500 paid sales. Not bad at all for a three-day period. The promotion effect spilled over to my other books, and also ‘The Mosquito and the Teapot’, a book my children, Aamani and Sunaad Gurajada, wrote and illustrated.

TG:  What is innovative about your marketing strategy?
RA: I don't claim to do anything innovative. I'm just active on social media, and I keep an eye out for what's happening in the industry. If I spot a new trend, I'm ready to capitalize on it. I'm very visible in the Indian media because I do so many interviews on self-publishing, so I'm sure that helps with my sales.

TG: Would you still look to publish in print?
RA: Absolutely! In India (and even in the West) many people still prefer to read print books. I've talked to many publishers in India regarding the publication of my book in print. While they are willing to publish me, they want me to also give them my e-book rights. Which doesn't make sense for me because I've been able to achieve so much only because I own those rights. More recently, I've been talking with Read Out Loud Publishing for in-store distribution of my books. I hope to come to an agreement soon. I've previously commissioned them to do the audiobook for The Temple Is Not My Father.

TG: What have the last 5 years taught you about life and publishing do you think?
RA: I self-published my first book three years ago, and started watching trends a year before that,  so I've had four years to learn. I've learned that self-publishing is one of the best things that to happen to writers. I love the control it gives me. I love the fact that whether the book sinks on swims completely depends on me. I love that so many exciting innovations are taking place in the publishing industry, and that I get to part of it.

Having said that, traditional publishing still has its place. Hopefully the us vs. them attitude will sort itself out so we can get to the point where we can learn to co-exist, and even work with each other.

TG: Your children have also published on Amazon, would you like to tell us about that?
RA: My daughter, Aamani Gurajada, was six and bored on a long train journey. So she wrote seven short stories involving one living thing and one non-living thing. Once home we put the stories away and got on with life. Then, one day, my daughter asked me how come I helped so many people self-publish their books but hadn't done anything with hers. That was a valid question, so I commissioned an artist to do a sample illustration for me. My son, Sunaad Gurajada, then eleven, looked at the illustration and thought he could do better. So I downloaded graphics software for him and pointed him to youtube tutorials. He taught himself how to use the software and designed the cover of The Mosquito and the Teapot, and also did all the illustrations. The book got such strong reviews, both for the writing and for the illustrations, that we decided to a print version of the book. This was launched at the Hyderabad Literary Festival 2015. On all three days, the book sold out.

You can read more about Rasana at her website.

Techgoss Note: Suneetha Balakrishnan has been with Techgoss since 2007. She also reviews and interviews for The Hindu Literary Review. Her Kindle books on Amazon, ‘The Guest’ and ‘Jaldimatrimony.com’ are fun reads about the Indian matrimony scene.

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